Have I told you that I get to do homework?
I get to do homework! I am in the middle of reading a book by Marcus Borg for class. I like him. And on Tuesday evenings, I get to meet with a wonderful group of people, and we get to have conversations about God and soul and contemplative practices. I love this stuff!
In three years, I am hoping to have a spiritual direction certificate. This seems to be the direction my in-between time has been preparing me for.
Six years ago, I had never even heard of spiritual direction. When I first heard the term, I thought it sounded a little weird and mysterious. Then I kept hearing about it, and it sounded like something that would be a good idea for me to try. I started seeing a spiritual director about three years ago.
Once a month, I drive to an office building about 20 miles from home and walk myself to a small office tucked into the corner of the building. The room holds two arm chairs, a plant, and a small table with a candle and a clock on it.
I take off my shoes and sit in the chair facing a small window while Sherry lights the candle and takes the chair opposite me.
Every month we begin the same way. Sherry takes my hands and she prays: she welcomes God even though we already know that God is present; she asks God to direct our time, to help me to notice. And then we begin. Sometimes we just spend some time in quiet. Most of the time I start talking. Sherry asks questions or makes observations. She has witnessed the transformation taking place in my soul during these last few years. It is helpful to have someone bear witness to this, to remind you of where you were and show you where you may now be.
With Sherry, I get to talk about God or at least about where I think I’ve noticed God showing up in my life. I get to share the deep things that are going on in my soul–the things that might be awkward to bring up in polite conversation with most people. I’ve been learning to pay attention to the direction that my life is taking and to be purposeful about this direction.
Spiritual direction allows me to experience the sacred space that listening with another person opens ups. Slowly, I realized that maybe this was one thing I was created to do and be in this world. I was created to be a listener. I have a hunger for God, for listening, for making space, and soul conversation. This hunger in me is something I can offer back. I am excited to see how this path unfolds.
That’s my news.
If you’re like I was six years ago and are wondering “what in the world is spiritual direction?” I’ll try to fill you in. If you think it still sounds weird, that’s just fine. No hard feelings.
Spiritual directors make space for others to share their sacred stories, to ask the big questions, to discover and listen to their own soul, and to deepen their relationship with God. It’s so helpful to have company in this endeavor. Jeanette Bakke explains: “It is often easier to recognize what is essential when we speak out loud about our interior life.”
It is powerful to have someone bear witness to your story.
In spiritual direction, you tend to ask the big questions–questions like: “Who am I? Where have I come from? Where am I going? What is prayer? Who is God for me? How does God speak to me? Where do I belong? How can I be of service?” (These questions are from Henri Nouwen’s book Spiritual Direction.)
One of my favorite aspects about spiritual direction is that “directors don’t give answers or tell directees what to do in their relationship with God or when making life choices. Instead, they listen with directees for how the Spirit of God is present and active.” (Jeanette Bakke, Holy Invitations) As a directee, you learn to do your own listening.
According to Nouwen, “Spiritual guidance affirms the basic quest for meaning. It calls for the creation of space in which the validity of the questions does not depend on the availability of answers but on the questions’ capacity to open us to new perspectives and horizons.”
A spiritual director helps to affirm these questions and encourages us to live into them. In spiritual direction we make space to look at how these questions are shaping us and working into the fabric of our every day life. We learn to keep our eyes and ears and heart open to God’s presence, which is always surrounding us.
I think practicing spiritual direction is not just something to do, but it is a way of being in this world. It’s more of who I want to be.
Have you experienced spiritual direction? What has that experience been like for you?